There are not many cities that I instantly fell in love with. New York, Melbourne, Brighton are among those few that had me at hello. When I accepted an invitation from Tourism Leuven to spend a weekend in Leuven, little did I know that this Belgian city situated only about 40km from where I live, would be my new crush!
I actually can’t believe I have not explored Leuven before. I have been there briefly on several occasions but I never really took the time to get to know the city. If I had known it was one big explosion of great food, I would have not made that mistake. The center of Leuven is filled with little restaurants, terraces, adorable organic cafes and sushi. Lots of sushi. I am pretty sure I was not dreaming when we passed 5 sushi restaurants within a 500m radius.
For the weekend, I was joined by my lovely and talented friend JoBee who I knew would appreciate the musical part of the weekend as much as I enjoyed the food. Our weekend full of mouthwatering food, long walks and great music started with a late lunch at Greenway, an organic cafe that serves the best falafel wraps pretty much ever, followed by a stroll through the city and a visit to a flea market.
In the evening, we were expected at Julia & Elias, a bistro located in a small alley right off the fish market (vismarkt). Ran by Hans Meus, the brother of Jeroen Meus, this cozy and nostalgic bistro is dedicated to (and bears a name of) their grandparents. There are always 5 starters, 5 main dishes and 5 desserts to choose from but what’s interesting is that menu changes every single day. As the weather was beautiful, we had a wonderful dinner and a little too much wine in the courtyard of the bistro. Not sure if it was the wine, the bistro or Leven in general, but no where before have I had so many wonderful conversations with strangers in a restaurant. The openness of the locals really made me feel welcome and enjoy the whole experience even more.
Our Sunday began with the famous ‘pick-nick in het park’ – an initiative created six years back by Jeroen Meus. A few hours lying in the grass, relaxing with a cup of coffee, talking and enjoying the atmosphere with a few hundreds locals – we could not have asked for a better start of the day.
And then it was time for Hapje-Tapje – a well-known open-air event that that transforms Leuven into heaven for foodies. We spent a few hours following a culinary route with delicious snacks & drinks (hapje & tapje) that led us through the city center. We ended our trip with a soy latte at the Coffee Cafe and left the city with a full stomach and a cheerful mind!
I have already planned my next trip to Leuven so if there is anything you think I should do / visit / eat please let me know in the comments!